by John Borst PP Rotary Club of Dryden, ON

Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech when she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes will likely go down in history. The part that caught my Rotarian’s attention was:

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To — to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.”

 Rotary’s first principle of justice is its dedication to the truth. Paul Harris’ career as a lawyer fighting corporate fraud rested on not “turning a blind eye to corruption.”

America’s greatness, in large part, is defined by the freedom of its press. Freedom within the “democracy” of Rotary International, as a corporate entity, is in part defined by the freedom of its members to write articles about Rotary including opinion pieces. Wethe4  is built and published based on this principle.

Wethe4 came into existence because some Rotarians found it very hard to swallow the truth. The case revolved around an “editorial” written for District 5550’s blog 5550opinions. The piece was titled Five lessons for Rotary gleaned from the 2016 election”.

The focus of the article was Rotary, not the election. The election was grievously contentious. Feelings were raw. Many readers did not distinguish between the underlying problems with the winner’s characteristics and campaign strategy and how both violated the ethical standards and values that underlay Rotary as a service organisation. With feelings still raw and emotions still running high, I was no doubt nieve to think the many American Rotarians who voted for the successful candidate could see the hypocrisy in what they had just done by their vote.

When I was asked to remove the offending piece by the Board of Directors of my District 5550,  after my District Governor had received complaints, I did. I then created and reposted it at Wethe4. It has now been in place for 15 months without incident.

Hence you can imagine my surprise when on January 4th, of this year I received an e-mail from the Senior Officer | Club and District Support, Americas with the following message:

Dear Rotarian Borst,

Greetings from Rotary International, and happy new year.

I am contacting you today because we were recently made aware of a couple cases of Rotary marks violations or unauthorized use of Rotary images on your blog.  I know the last time I contacted you about such a situation you corrected the marks very quickly, so please know that your efforts are very much appreciated. 

The two examples we’d ask that you assist with today are:


On this webpage, the graphic includes a flag, the text “Election 2016,” and the Rotary Mark of Excellence (the Rotary wheel).  In all cases, the Mark of Excellence should not be used without the Masterbrand Signature (the wheel with the text “Rotary International”) included in proximity.  However, because this graphic and the article as a whole discuss politics and a contentious political situation, Rotary marks should not be used at all in order to comply with policies deeming Rotary non-political.  I understand it is your intention in this article to argue that Rotary should move towards making political statements, current policy does not allow for that, and we must ask you to remove the Mark of Excellence from this graphic.  Aside from the Rotary marks, we recognize that this is a personal blog and that you are entitled to your own opinions, political or otherwise.


While not a marks violation, we would appreciate if you would remove the photo of RI President Ian Riseley as it suggests he is somehow involved in your blog or endorsing the opinion being presented. 

Again, we appreciate your efforts to remain in compliance with RI policies and for the work you do as a Rotarian.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this.

Best Regards,

In response, I immediately redesigned both graphics as shown below in response to her request.

election-tears#2-300x214-2016    RI Word & Who Rtn190hpx

Today, January 8th, 2018, however, I received an additional request. This one said

Rotarian Borst,

Thank you very much, we appreciate your assistance with this!

It looks like the Rotary logo is still part of the graphic of the American flag with the text “Election 2016,” so if you’d be able to remove the Rotary logo from that particular graphic, we should be more or less where we need to be.

The response to this further demand has not been magnanimous. Instead, I explained

“You described the offending part as “the Masterbrand Signature (the wheel with the text “Rotary International”) included in proximity” That is precisely the portion I removed. What is left could be the hub of any generic rim which is on the market. I would appreciate knowing how what is left is any different than me replacing it with a similar rim profile.”

While I am glad that no one has asked me to change the content of my original post, which I will admit is a harsh indictment of those who violated the principles of Rotary, I stand by my opinion and believe that the past year has only proven the “Truth” of my analysis.

In conclusion, I want to bring to your attention something else I added to the Flag graphic that isn’t immediately apparent. The original has tears falling from the Rotary logo. After I removed the cogs and text and was left with a generic rim, I filled in the gap with more tears.

I think Oprah Winfrey would agree; they are quite justified.